Memory Tapes

Seek Magic

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Label: Acephale Records

Dayve Hawk may claim otherwise, but he’s certainly a man of mystery at the moment. Recording under the names Weird Tapes, Memory Cassette and now, Memory Tapes, he’s as hard to pin down for genre and sound as he is to stick to a nom de guerre. His debut as Memory Tapes, Seek Magic is simultaneously dreamy and wistful, indebted to the elements of dance music while rarely actually being danceable. Hawk’s influences are right out on his sleeve, but his skill to meld them keeps it refreshingly original.

Opening with “Swimming Field,” Seek Magic opens with a lethargic, strangely evocative guitar, swiftly followed by a beat somewhere between dance floor and parade ground. Hawk’s heavily-treated (as it is on most of the album) voice cuts in so seamlessly that it operates more as a function of the melody than it does as lyrics. It fits somewhere between the quiet side of shoegaze and the dynamic side of ambient, but it’s wonderful either way. The single “Bicycle” is much more deliberately dance-y, with horn-like synthesizers swarming around a quietly disturbing lyric “I’m in love with you, little sister/ We ride home in the night.” Late in the song, there’s a solo that’s so in debt to Peter Hook’s famously high basslines that it just has to be a nod, not a lift. The next two tracks, “Green Knight” and “Pink Stones” largely fall in the same march, with multi-tracked backing vocals and dramatic choruses over quick beats. The seven-minute-plus “Stop Talking” is the most energetic track on Seek Magic, a steady beat over ’80s synthesizers and a deep, prominent bassline- it’s so reminiscent of the highly praised Aytron Senna EP that it makes me hopeful for the future of overtly-ambient, shimmering dance music.

The real standout track of the album, “Plain Material,” is also the least representative. Beginning with a simple, reverb-heavy guitar, Hawk sings “Suicide, well you know you mean well” and when the beat kicks in, it’s almost as if Jeff Buckley had decided to go techno. With a soaring chorus and rapid synthesizers, Hawk manages to take the album in an entirely new direction almost as it’s over.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Memory Tapes will last as the man’s preferred nomenclature, but he certainly shows no sign of slowing down his production. And that’s a good thing- Hawk can take up whatever name he wants as long as he keeps making music like this.

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